[She slips out of a side door.]
The PRINCE HEREDITARY OF BAIREUTH, dressed in the French taste of the period, as different as possible from the king’s favorite garb, comes in cautiously.
The Prince of Baireuth!
THE PRINCE (aside).
Her very picture! It is the Princess! [Aloud.] I crave Your Highness’ pardon that my impatience to deliver the greeting of Your Royal brother the Crown Prince in person—
The Prince of Baireuth places me in no slight embarrassment by this early visit.
The visit was not paid to you, Princess, but to this noble and venerable castle, these stairways, these galleries, these winding corridors—it was a visit of recognizance, Your Highness, such as must precede any important undertaking.
Then you are preparing to do battle here?
My intentions are not altogether peaceful, and yet, as Princess Wilhelmine doubtless knows, I am compelled to confine myself to a policy of defense solely.
And even in this you cannot exercise too much care. [Aside.] The letter is no longer necessary. [Aloud.] How did you leave my brother? In good health? And thoroughly occupied?
The Crown Prince leads a life of the gayest diversity in his exile. He has made of Rheinsberg a veritable little Court of the Muses, devoted now to serious study, now to poetic recreation. We have enjoyed unforgettably beautiful hours there; one would hardly believe that so much imagination could be developed and encouraged on the borders of Mecklenburg! We paint, we build, we model, we write. The regiment which is under the immediate command of our talented Prince serves merely to carry out, by military evolutions, the strategic descriptions of Polybius. In short, I should deeply regret leaving so delightful a spot had it not been for the flattering and important task intrusted to me. Princess, the Crown Prince desires full and true information, obtained at the source, as to the situation of his sister, his mother, here, that he may, if necessary, advise how this situation be improved, how any difficulties may be met.
If it became known that I am granting an audience, here in this public hall, to a Prince who has not yet been presented either to my father or to my mother—I could prepare myself for several weeks in Fortress Kuestrin.
[She bows and turns as if to go.]
Princess! Then it is really true—that which is whispered, with horror, at every court in Europe? It is true that the King of Prussia tyrannizes not only his court, his entire environment, but his own family as well?